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for a debt ceiling piece of legislation that would be considered. i would hope, as i said last week, that we could deal with in a nonpartisan, bipartisan, nonpolitical fashion the protection of the credit worthiness of the united states of america and to the maintenance of america's credit rating. it was reduced for the first time in history when we had a debt cliff debate in 2011, and we were reduced by one point in the credit worthiness of our country. that was unfortunate for our country. president reagan said in 1986, unfortunately congress consistently brings the government to the edge of default before facing its responsibility. this brinksmanship threatens the holders of government bonds and those who rely on veterans' benefits, interest rates, etc., would skyrocket if we did that. he was then urging the democratic congress and republicans to support the increase in the debt, which as you know, was done. in addition, keith hennessey who was george bush's national director counsel, payment prioritization doesn't stop payments, it just delays them. then the party sues the government and
of what we call the debt ceiling which lets the country borrow money to pay its bills. as a part of that agreement, a large number of people from both parties voted for something that hasn't turned out very well. and it's called sequestration. this is a word that gets tossed around in this chamber. it is having a real and negative impact on the country. i just came from a hearing of the armed services committee where the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the secretary of defense told us that nine battle groups and three bomber groups of our air force and our navy planes have been grounded. about 1/3 of the nation's air capacity isn't flying. across the country today, people who are on medicare, who need chemotherapy treatments from their doctors offices are finding that many doctors are declining to do chemo therapy treatments for cancer patients because of the cuts that take place in sequestration. i met earlier this week with employees of the naval sea systems engineering command in philadelphia whom i represent. they're looking at a 20% pay cut because of furloughs. th
to unfold and as the debt ceiling once again approaches. indeed, it was made all the more worrisome by the house republican hearing yesterday that focus on the debt ceiling in terms of the possibility of prioritizing our obligations, obligations all emanating from congressional actions. we cannot continue on this dangerous path. hopefully this hearing will serve a constructive opportunity to embrace a different path. i yield back. >> thank you very much, mr. levitt. again, it's my pleasure to welcome secretary jack lew back to the committee on ways and means. we look forward to your testimony. the committee has received your written statement. it will be made a part of the formal record. secretary lew, you're recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you, mr. chairman, ranking member levin, for your gracious welcome here today. it's an honor to appear and to visit the president's budget for next year. and i sit here as the chairman noted, surrounded by four decades of memories of many important occasions. when bipartisan cooperation has moved the country for
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